THE ACT OF PROCREATING IS A BLAST. Just ask my second ex-wife, who got laid at least four or five times more often then I did when we were together. And though the marriage ended in a epic thunderstorm of lawyers, tears, and a suspiciously missing cat, the one thing I’m sure we’re both thankful for is the fact that we never had children. Don’t get me wrong, I understand someone needs to have children in order to perpetuate the species. But, the actual process and responsibility of having children is an intolerable maelstrom of crushing debt, endless filth, and an eighteen-year implied service contract. There’s at least six thousand and twenty-two reasons not to have kids. Here are ten.
*For the purposes of this article, The Smoking Jacket sent me to live with a couple with two children, ages three and five, in a gentrified neighborhood in a popular North American metropolis for three months. The focus will be on the early years, and will not discuss the nightmare that is childbirth, teenagers, the expense of college, or Justin Beiber fandom. No children were harmed in the creation of this text. I was harmed on several occasions.
1. They Shit, Piss, and Puke
Children are small factories of filth. If they’re not pooping, they’re peeing. If they’re not peeing, they’re vomiting. And all matter-of-factly and without any sign of shame. Children and parents alike become somehow immune to odors. And you’ll discover excrement everywhere and on everything. You know what gets the smell and stain of urine and feces out of an officially licensed New York Giants jersey? Nothing.
2. They Don’t Sleep
You just had a kid? Congratulations! The next time you’re going to sleep through the night is 2027. Way to think that one through. Was that three minutes of sex really worth it? Oh, and from now on sleeping in is 7 am, and when you do get up everybody will be covered in shit, piss, and puke.
3. They’re Expensive
Children are unbelievably expensive, even before they can speak and ask for stuff. A package of diapers, which does very little to deal with the aforementioned feces and urine, costs $300 and lasts about 36 hours. Kids grow out of their clothes every week-and-a-half for fifteen years. There’s no shortage of overpriced toys, appliances, and crap that are dangerous and loud, and which the children inevitably become tired of in mere minutes. Pediatricians make up things that your kids need, and who are you to argue? Ya, Doc, a tetanus shot is a real thing. Sure. Oh, and I’ll be the one who decides if my kid’s allergic to peanuts, thank you very much. How’s your EpiPen stock doing? They’re all pricks.
4. They Watch Kids’ TV
Children’s television is intolerable nonsense with bright colors and impossibly happy characters. There are two categories: Animated and live-action. All the animated shows are about precocious communist Mexican orphans who fight crime in the jungle, and have talking dolphin sidekicks and use a lot of hallucinogens. The live action shows all feature drunk, unsuccessful young actors who work part-time as waiters at Applebee’s and use a lot of hallucinogens. And there’s singing. So much singing. When they remake A Clockwork Orange, these will be the images shown during Alex’s aversion therapy.
5. They Say Boring Things
Children can’t manage a decent conversation if their lives depend on it. They all have ADD, and when they tell stories their narratives are inconsistent, the characters are poorly drawn, and the conclusions are contradictory. And so self-indulgent. What I did at the park. What I did at pre-school. What I did in my pants. The other day I was trying to explain to this three-year-old my thoughts on the GOP presidential nomination candidates, and she’s all like “Banana.” Idiot. And they’re the worst joke tellers. Knock knock. Who’s there? Thunderstorm? Thunderstorm who? Aren’t you glad I didn’t say banana? Seriously, what is it about bananas?
6. They Read Dumb Books
With the exception of Shel Silverstein, all children’s books are horribly contrived nonsense. Most of the books no more than thirty pages, half of which are pictures, and usually involve some sort of elephant or penguin. The rhymes are unimaginative, the plots poorly constructed, and they always end happily, quite often at a birthday party. And the kids fall in love with one of the books, and you have to read it over and over and over until your nightmares are filled with dancing talking penguins who drive fire trucks and recite scripture in iambic pentameter in Spanish. Somewhere, there’s an underground club where children’s books authors meet to smoke dope rolled in $100 bills and laugh at the success of their scheme.
7. They Like Bad Music
Children have an inexplicable affection for the world’s worst musicians. The Fresh Beat Band, Bobs & Lolo, Nickleback. Have you ever heard of these bands? No? Well you’re lucky, because I have and their contrived simplistic lyrics and harmonies are stuck in my head forever. I was listening to The Last Waltz during the incarceration for this column, and one of the kids is all, like, What is this? And I’m like, it’s The Band, dude. And they’re all like, I don’t like The Band, I want Bobs & Lolo. Seriously, who can trust someone who doesn’t like The Band? Kids are shifty.
8. They Hang with Other Kids
Okay, say by some stretch of the imagination you have a kid who doesn’t poop, smells like apple blossoms, watches The Wire (and gets it), reads George Saunders, and shuns material possessions. Great. Problem is, you still have to socialize with other people and their horrible children. Playgrounds are ghastly epicenters of unedited honesty and truth, not to mention petri dishes for disease. Kids and their parents are blathering fools in the midst of perpetual flus. It’s like being a bartender at the worst bar in the world, with no alcohol to numb the pain. And people are incredibly excited by the pedestrian accomplishments of their children. Little Kaleb (all kids have K names) went poopy all by himself this morning. Super. So did I. Don’t see me bragging about it. Plus, what they don’t tell you is that Kaleb went poopy on daddy’s MacBook like three days earlier.
9. They Can’t Hold Their Liquor
Drinking with kids is like frosh week at a state university. No one can handle more than two drinks, there’s a lot of crying, and after about two hours everyone wants to go home to their mommy. Oh, and kids never pick up the tab. Ever. Which leads me to…
10. They Don’t Work
Children don’t work, so they have no income. They’re like an unemployed brother-in-law who’s a “writer” living in your basement and eating your food. If for some reason the three condoms I habitually wear break, and I had a kid, that little freeloader would be at casting calls on the way home from the hospital. I’d monetize that little bastard faster than you can say Lindsay Lohan.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011). He lives in Toronto.